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Presidential Bomb Threats at the UN

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

Donald Trump denounced North Korea and its president Kim Jong-un as “depraved” before the United Nations Sept. 19, saying the nation “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life.” Of course, North Korea can barely feed itself, and yet has to defend itself against an onslaught of Western hostility, UN sanctions, and ongoing US/South Korean war games which are rehearsals for an invasion of the North. It tests rockets and bombs to be sure, just as the US and its allies and adversaries do all year round. It’s big business.

Trump’s claim that North Korea is threatening is preposterous since it has no deliverable nuclear weapons at all. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that North Korea is no danger to the United States. In June 2016, the Institute for Science and International Security reported that Pyongyang may have between 13 and 21 warheads. The CIA, whose job it is to find hostile weapons (even where they don’t exist) says Pyongyang has at most about 21. US intelligence agencies’ combined estimates are that while it may have miniaturized a nuclear warhead, North Korea has no missile that can drop them on the United States. The Federation of American Scientists is more skeptical and estimates it has “potentially produce[d] 10-20 nuclear warheads.”

Like an 8th grade imbecile contradicting and humiliating himself in nearly every sentence, Trump claimed in his speech that North Korean President Kim Jong-un “is on a suicide mission.” In April 2016 Trump had called Kim a “smart cookie.” There is absolutely no evidence of Kim being suicidal, in fact quite the opposite since the North’s military missile and nuclear program are aimed at fending off a repeat of the Korean War in which, according to US Air Force General Curtis LeMay, “we burned down every town in North Korea.”

Trump went on to assert that “[I]f the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Here is Trump in a nutshell: Condemning threats of “unthinkable loss of life” in one sentence, then making precisely the same threat in the next.

Perhaps Trump knows nothing about the Korean War, but the idea that the United States might “have no choice” but to totally destroy an entire country is not just a deliberate lie and an outrage, it is intended to prepare the population to get comfortable with bloodlust and preparation for atrocities.

Governments always have a choice about whether to commit mass murder and since North Korea has done absolutely nothing against the United States or its allies, Trump’s hate-filled spittle about total war is all the more monstrous. Delivered before the world’s largest peace group, Trump’s ghastly threat was a barbaric embrace of genocidal violence. It was directed at teaching children to embrace it as well. It was directed at teaching children to embrace it as well.

Trump must have for a moment though that to “totally destroy North Korea” is a “thinkable loss of life,” as opposed to the “unthinkable” sort that he condemned. But if he did, — and this is a big “if,” since Trump seems not to think that words have any meaning, — then it is Trump himself who is depraved. He must be ostracized, stigmatized and shamed into resignation before he teaches any more hatred.

Trump must have for a moment though that to “totally destroy North Korea” is a “thinkable loss of life,” as opposed to the “unthinkable” sort that he condemned. But if he did, — and this is a big “if,” since Trump seems not to think that words have any meaning, — then it is Trump himself who is depraved. He must be ostracized, stigmatized and shamed into resignation before he teaches any more hatred.

The United States’ historical destruction of North Korea and today’s threats of more should be considered in the context of the living memory of its older generation. Robert Neer’s 2013 book “Napalm” (Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press), reports that Gen. LeMay, head of 21st Bomber Command, wrote, “We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes…” Neer reports that more bombs were dropped on Korea than in the whole of the Pacific theater during World War II — 635,000 tons, versus 503,000 tons. “Pyongyang, a city of half a million people before 1950, was said to have had only two buildings left intact,” according to “Napalm.”

The United States’ historical destruction of North Korea and today’s threats of more should be considered in the context of the living memory of its older generation. Robert Neer’s 2013 book “Napalm” (Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press), reports that Gen. LeMay, head of 21st Bomber Command, wrote, “We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes…” Neer reports that more bombs were dropped on Korea than in the whole of the Pacific theater during World War II — 635,000 tons, versus 503,000 tons. “Pyongyang, a city of half a million people before 1950, was said to have had only two buildings left intact,” according to “Napalm.”

Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking “A People’s History of the United States” says, “Perhaps 2 million Koreans, North and South, were killed in the Korean war, all in the name of opposing ‘the rule of force.’” Bruce Coming’s history “The Korean War” says, “[O]f more than 4 million casualties … at least 2 million were civilians. … Estimated North Korean casualties numbered 2 million including about 1 million civilians… An estimated 900,000 Chinese soldiers lost their lives in combat.”

According to Neer in “Napalm,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the former supreme commander, testified to Congress in May 1951, “The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children … I vomited.”

Trump used the word “sovereignty” 21 times in his speech. The United States is devoted so convincingly to national sovereignty that it has bankrolled military occupation and shooting warfare inside Afghanistan and Iraq for a combined total of 30 years running, and today is simultaneously bombing and strafing five other sovereign states in the region. Not a single UN Delegate was aware of this hypocrisy last Tuesday, which explains the roaring applause and cheers in the General Assembly during Trump’s bomb threats.

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John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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